The chirps and sweet melodies of a pair of northern mockingbirds awoke Gnarshm from his sleep. An iron church bell tolled in the distance. Plump fluffy pillows and warm blankets adorned the luxurious bed and as Gnarshm’s feet reached for the floor, the door to his room swung open revealing a woman in black and white attire whose hair shone a bright red with occasional strands of grey, carrying a tray of biscuits and tea. The woman approached.
“Well good morning. You’ve been sleeping for quite some time. It is good to see that you are finally awake.” the woman said.
“Um. Good morning Miss.” Gnarshm replied, slightly confused as to who she was and why she was here and even where he was.
“Well sit back down, I’m here to bring you your mid-day meal.” the woman said as she set the tray down beside Gnarshm. The biscuits were warm and scrumptious looking and the tea scented of sugar and honey.
The sun shone brightly through an opened set of balcony doors overlooking a peaceful flower adorned garden.
Gnarshm grabbed one of the biscuits and took a bite out of it, hungrily. “Mmmm. These are….delicious.” Gnarshm mumbled as he was eating. “But who are you? and where am I?” he asked.
“I am Esmeralda. You are at the royal suite, and if you need anything, just ring the hand bell at the side of your bed.
“The royal what? Am I the king?” Gnarshm asked as he nursed a bruise on his forehead.
“No of course not silly. You’re a gnoll. Gnolls can’t be king.” Esmeralda replied as she began dusting the furniture in the room.
Gnarshm thought for a moment, but he was still slightly confused. “Then a royal guest of the king then?” he inquired.
“Hmm? What was that?” Esmeralda asked as she went about with her cleaning.
“I’m a royal guest of the king?” Gnarshm replied.
“Oh, well then you’d better not keep the king waiting. It’s past noon-time as it is and I know how much the king enjoys his horseback riding and hunting wild game. Yes he does, and his wines and cheeses. Oh he has quite the wine cellar. My oh my.” Esmeralda’s voice trailed off to the far end of the room. “Remember now, if you need anything, just ring the bell. Have a good day sir.” And with that she left the room.
Gnarshm gobbled down the rest of the biscuits and proceeded to sip his tea, when he began to worry. “I’d better get up and get ready. I don’t want to be late for the king. Gnarshm’s mind raced with images of riders galloping on horses and the jolly laughter of royals enjoying their wines and cheeses as he rose from his bed. His bones and muscles were terribly sore and his head ached as he put on his tunic and trousers. He glanced onto the garden from the balcony for a moment, then his eyes caught glimpse of a book that was laying on an end table. “Hmm. This book looks…..familiar.” Gnarshm said as he began to flip through the pages.
As he was perusing through the book, the door to the room swung open and in came a slender looking elf and a lug of an ogre that barely squeezed through the doorway.
“Gnarshm, it’s so good to see you alive again.” the elf said cheerfully.
The ogre also grunted happily.
“Ruby and the others have already begun their descent so now that you are better, we can join them. Bring your book. We’ll be needing that too.” the elf continued.
“Oh you must be here to bring me to see the king aren’t you? Are we to go horseback riding and hunting today? That sounds like allot of fun. But a tour of the royal wine cellar would be nice too.” Gnarshm said.
“Horseback riding? What are you talking about?” We’re here to bring you back down to the dungeon so we can hunt down the evil time lords.” the elf replied.
“The DUNGEON?! Evil Time Lords?! That sounds absolutely dreadful! What did I do to deserve this? Who are you people! Why has he sent you to bring me to the dungeon!? I thought the king was supposed to be benevolent and kind. No I don’t want to go to the dungeons. I won’t go! No way!” Gnarshm shouted.
“What’s gotten into you? Don’t you recognize us? It’s Twiggy and Crumm. We’re your buddies. And besides, it was your idea to go to the dungeon in the first place. You wanted to go.” Twiggy stated.
“Wanted to go to the dungeons?!” Why in the realms would anyone WANT to go to the dungeons?! and I don’t remember either of you.” -Gnarshm replied.
Twiggy looked at Crumm with a surprised look, not quite knowing what to do or say.
“Too many blows to the head.” Crumm surmised.
“What are we going to do?” Twiggy asked.
“I’ll tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re NOT going down to the dungeon!” Gnarshm stated angrily.
“Alright, we don’t have to go to the dungeon. How about…um…I know! We can go tour the royal wine cellars like you said. You’ll really love it. There’s all kinds of different wines down there. Red and white, sweet and dry. Some really vintage stuff.” Twiggy suggested.
“Really?” Gnarshm asked.
“Yes, really.” Twiggy replied.
Crumm nodded his head to concur.
“OK. Let’s go. So where is the royal wine cellar anyway?” Gnarshm inquired.
“In the dungeon.” Crumm blurted out.
“What?! You, you’re just trying to trick me, but I won’t have any of it. I’m not going down to the dungeons and that’s final.” Gnarshm said.
Twiggy smacked the ogre for his utter stupidity. “You half-witted imbecile! Now look what you’ve done! How can I accomplish such a simple task when I have only a brainless oaf such as yourself to work with.”
“Sorry. I was just trying to help.” Crumm frowned.
Twiggy took out a small vial and a cloth from her purse. She emptied the vial onto the cloth. “I’m sorry Gnarshm, but now I have no other choice.” She leaped at the gnoll and held the cloth to his face. After a bit of struggling, Gnarshm fell to the floor unconscious.
“Well, that vial worked pretty well didn’t it?” Twiggy stated. She turned to Crumm. “You carry Gnarshm. I’ll get the book.”